Despair vs. Hope – Streams in the Desert by HC Cowman (March 2020)

Susan’s Thursday morning note March 19, 2020

Streams in the Desert by HC Cowman
Despair vs. Hope

Good morning.  So quiet.  So still.  This note is going to copy past Thursday note writings from books on despair vs.  hope.  I have tried to decide what to take out, but am not going, for I know that those of you that know others going through painful circumstances, the length will not matter, the content will.  Again, below will show you the power of books, of finding authors that understand our circumstances…of seeing that even though our circumstances we go through alone, none of us are alone…

…Yesterday I received a note from one of you letting me know of her recent diagnosis with brain cancer that is inoperable.  I would like to write for you what I have marked in a few different books on despair.  The first memory of despair is a memory of my mom telling me about the day that my dad died in a farm accident.  She told us that on night as she went into her room she saw her daily devotional Streams in the Desert by LB Cowman.  After a day of noise, chaos, profound loss she opened to June 1st.  Here was the reading for her day of sorrow.  Her day of choice – to look to the heavens for comfort or to despair.

June 1 entry, Streams in the Desert: Why do you worry?  What possible use does your worrying serve?  You are aboard such a large ship that you would be unable to steer even if your Captain placed you at the helm.  You would not even be able to adjust the sails, yet you worry as if you were the captain or the helmsman of the vessel.  Be quiet, dear soul – God is the Master!  Do you think all the commotion and the uproar of this life is evidence that God has left His throne?  He has not!  His mighty steeds rush furiously ahead, and His chariots are the storms themselves.  But the horses have bridles, and it is God who holds the reins, guiding the chariot as He wills.  Our God Jehovah is still the Master.  Believe this and you will have peace.  “Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27).  Charles H.  Spurgeon

Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
The storms are raging on God’s deep –
God’s deep, not yours; be still and sleep.

Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
God’s hands will still the Tempter’s sweep –
God’s hands, not yours; be still and sleep.

Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
God’s love is strong while night hours creep
God’s love, not yours; be still and sleep.

Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
God’s heaven will comfort those who weep –
God’s heaven, not yours; be still and sleep.

I implore you not to give in to despair.  It is a dangerous temptation, because our Adversary has refined it to the point that it is quite subtle.  Hopelessness constricts and withers the heart, rendering it unable to sense God’s blessings and grace.  It also causes you to exaggerate the adversities of life and makes your burdens seem too heavy for you to bear.  Yet God’s plans for you, and His ways of bringing about His plans, are infinitely wise.  Madame Guyon.

Another daily devotional book that I have marked on trusting God…God Calling by AJ Russell: Be calm, no matter what may befall you.  Rest in Me.  Be patient, and let patience have her perfect work.  Never think things are overwhelming.  How can you be overwhelmed when I am with you?  Do not feel the strain of life.  There is no strain for My children.  Do you not see I am a Master Instrument Maker?  Have I not fashioned each part?  Do I not know just what it can bear without a strain?  Would I, the maker of so delicate an instrument, ask of it anything that could destroy or strain?  The strain… is carrying two days’ burden on the one day.

Underneath are the Everlasting Arms – You cannot get below that.  Rest in them, as a tired child rests.  All power is given unto Me…I cannot withhold it from the soul that dwells near Me, because it is then not a gift, but passes insensibly from Me to My disciples.  It is breathed in by the soul who lives in My Presence.  Learn to shut yourself away in My Presence – and then, without speaking, you have those things you desire of Me, Strength – Power – Joy – Riches.  (On the bulletin for my mom’s funeral we wrote an excerpt of what she had written a week before her death on this same promise.  She wrote six days before her body giving in to her cancer…”I was distraught (on hearing of my diagnosis)…I told God I didn’t have any more faith or strength.  He said it was not my faith, but who he is.  Psalm 91:1 came to me: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” I cried and said, “Look what happened to Ken and he was abiding in your secret place.” The verse came to me, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” I prayed the Lord’s prayer and kept repeating verses.  I received peace that night and it has not left me.”

I am your Guide.  Do not want to see the road ahead.  Go just one step at a time.  I very rarely grant the long vista to My disciples, especially in personal affairs, for one step at a time is the best way to cultivate Faith.  But I am with you.  It was when the disciples gave up effort after a night of fruitless fishing that I came.  Literally, you have to depend on Me for everything – everything.  It was out of the depths that David cried unto Me, and I heard his voice, All is well.  Think of the multitudes, who thronged Me, when I was on earth, all eager for something.  Eager to be healed, or taught, or fed.  Think as I supplied their many wants, and granted their manifold requests, what it meant to Me, to find amid the crowd, some one or two, who followed Me just to be near Me, just to dwell in My Presence.  How some longing of the Eternal Heart was satisfied thereby.  Comfort Me, awhile, by letting Me know that you would seek Me just to dwell in My Presence, to be near Me, not even for teaching, not for material gain, not even for a message, but for Me.  The longing of the human heart to be loved for itself is a something caught from the Great Divine Heart. 

Firstlight by Sue Monk Kidd.  “What do you want?” I asked.  “Nothing,” he said.  “I just want to be with you.” He laid his head on my arm, content to be near me, to curl up in my circle of lamplight and be in my presence.  The most beautiful prayer is to sit with God in that way.  To pray, not because I want something, not because I’m in trouble again, but because I simply want to be close.

On moving into what is unseen in our lives.  I recall a dot-to-dot picture…The child had created the picture by moving his pencil from dot to dot, one at a time.  It comforts me to know that when I can’t see the whole picture, all I really need is to see the next dot.

On hope and persistence.  I came upon an unusual boulder towering at the water’s edge.  There was a hole through the center, so large that the rock resembled a hoop.  How peculiar, I thought.  However did it get that way?  As I watched the water splash against the rock – wave after wave, spilling through the opening – I realized that it was not the water but the persistence of the sea that had made a way through the impossible.  Walking on, I thought how easily I had sometimes given up on problems or dreams that had seemed too hard, too impenetrable.  Persistent love.  Persistent hope.  Persistent effort.  The mystery of overcoming often lay in the simple rhythmic act of keeping at it.

Keep Going: The Art of Perseverance by Joseph Marshall (Indian Wisdom).  At many places along our journey we reach a moment of choice.  We must remind ourselves that the choices we have made have brought us to this moment.  We must further remind ourselves that quitting, stopping, or giving in is a choice and not mandatory, no matter how seductive the voice of weariness may be…it’s more important that you simply take the steps, one after another…that one more step will take us beyond where we were, somewhere, anywhere, ahead whether by a hairsbreadth or an arm’s length does not matter…There are things other than death that can take away our will to go on…like despair, because nothing can cripple us more than the loss of hope.  Weariness may and does, attack our body and mind.  But despair takes aim at the soul…the person who does not give in to despair will not long be deterred by defeat, nor weighted down by the memory of it.  How does despair know where to find us?  Because it dwells within us – not in a place but in a moment when our spirits are weakened because circumstances seem hopeless.  Then it appears.  Despair may dwell within us, but so does hope, the way to defeat it.  Hope can defeat despair.

Remember that in our language Grandfather also refers to the Great Power others call God.  That Grandfather is all around.  He is in the storm that challenges you, and in the strength that enables you to face it.  He is that whisper of hope against despair, and the sunshine on your face when you meet each new day.  He is there with you in your victories and embraces you when you suffer defeat.  He was there when you came into this world to begin this journey, and He will be there when you leave it to begin your next one.

The peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4).  How often I think of this promise.  Beyond the understanding you even can comprehend.  We must keep our perspective.  No matter our loss of what we leave on earth, the immediate step into God’s presence is the most powerful moment of our existence.  The most beautiful moment of our life.  Peace.  Peace we cannot even imagine.

Our choice.  Our choice to despair.  No matter our circumstances.  No stress in our life is insignificant.  Death or sickness is not the only way to be in the presence of God.  He seeks us to desire to just want to be with him.  As our children want to just have us in the same room.  Intimacy.  We are the child.  We will be at the greatest peace of our life when we are in His presence.  I hope this didn’t go too long.  I don’t know what to take out.  One day at a time.  That’s all we need to do.  Dot to dots.  Just look for the next dot, not for the entire picture of what our lives will become.  Susan

Latin for this week:
spes, spei – hope
spem habere – to have hope or to entertain hope
perforre – to bear through to the end
obdurare – to remain firm, hold out, persist

Works Cited:
Cowman, Lettie B., James Reimann, and Charles E.  Cowman.  Streams in the Desert : 366 Daily Devotional Readings.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.
Heald, Cynthia.  A Woman’s Journey to the Heart of God.  Nashville.  Nelson Publishing.  2000.
Kidd, Sue Monk.  Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings.  New York.  Penguin Putnam.  2006.
Marshall, Joseph M.  Keep Going : The Art of Perseverance.  Grand Rapids: Sterling Co., Inc., 2006
Russell, A.J.  God Calling.  Uhrichsville, Ohio.  Barbour Publishing.  1954.